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New Jersey Legislature prepares to lead Union charge for the "Readshaw Challenge"
CONTACT: Jay Purdy (717) 787-7895
HARRISBURG, May 27 - New Jersey is in position to become the first northern state to formally accept the challenge issued by Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Allegheny, to initiate a program to restore and maintain the monuments to its troops who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. The New Jersey Assembly Environmental Committee voted to allocate $55,000 to clean and repair the Garden State's 13 monuments on the Gettysburg battlefield. The measure (A-3049) now goes to the full Assembly for consideration, which could occur before the Assembly adjourns for the summer.
Two years ago, at the beginning of his campaign to preserve Pennsylvania's 139 monuments and markers at Gettysburg, Readshaw challenged other states to establish similar programs. Since then, several southern states, led by Mississippi and Louisiana, created private or public programs to ensure the care of their monuments. Officials from Mississippi and Louisiana credit Readshaw with making them aware of the maintenance needs of their monuments in the Gettysburg National Military Park.
New Jersey is the first Union state to initiate action to fund the preservation of its monuments on the site of the pivotal Civil War battle. Bruce Sirak, from Burlington Township, New Jersey, a Civil War enthusiast, re-enactor and co-founder of the Camp Olden Civil War Roundtable, lobbied the New Jersey Legislature for more than a year to promote a response to the Readshaw Challenge.
"It looks like New Jersey is going to lead the North in safeguarding the memorials to its sons who fought at Gettysburg, many of whom shed their blood on the soil of Pennsylvania," said Sirak. "I hope that when the people and officials in the other Union states hear of our apparent success, it will have a snowball effect. There is not a single monument on the battlefield that should be allowed to crumble through neglect."
The New Jersey effort has come from both houses of its legislature. The bill advancing in the Assembly is sponsored by Republicans Joseph Azzolina of Middletown and Guy Greg of Flanders, the majority whip. Their effort is supported by a bipartisan list of co-sponsors. In the New Jersey Senate, similar legislation (S-1741) is sponsored by Majority Whip Diane Allen of Burlington and Republican C. Louis Bassano of Union. The progress of the two bills can be tracked on the New Jersey Legislature's Web site at www.njleg.state.nj.us.
In a recent letter to the members of the New Jersey Assembly, Readshaw asked them to support preservation of Garden State monuments at Gettysburg. "These forms of metal and stone are a direct, tangible link to the men of the North and South who clashed on that immortal ground," wrote Readshaw. "They appeal to us to never forget the valor that occurred there, and to never allow such bloody division to imperil our nation again.
"The 13 New Jersey monuments and markers were erected when the veterans of Gettysburg still walked the earth and could relate to others what it was like on those three desperate days in July 1863."
To date, Readshaw's Gettysburg Monuments Project has raised more than $50,000 toward the maintenance and permanent endowment of Pennsylvania's Gettysburg monuments and markers. The goal is $553,000.Readshaw and the Pennsylvania Gettysburg Monuments Project may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone, 717-783-0411.
Updated: October 25, 2000
Copyright: 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000
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